At 9am this morning - Friday 26th June, - our 32 Students who represent all counties of Ireland gathered in the Phoenix Park to prepare for a special meeting with the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins. These Students have been chosen to represent their county in a trip to the Somme which commemorates the fallen Irish Soldiers of World War 1.

Each of the students will keep a diary of their experience, which they will also share here on On arrival to Belgium they will be taken to the grave side of their “adopted” soldier and will place a stone or a handful of soil from the soldier`s native county as a mark of respect for the sacrifices these young men made a century ago.

The idea of the project came from Donegal History teacher, Gerry Moore whose grand-uncle died in World War One. He has been joined by teachers from both sides of the border to make this unique history project a meaningful and lasting experience for the 32 participants and for History students in the future.

The Students arrived in Áras an Uachtaráin at about 10am, where they were greeted individually by the President.

Gerry Moore introduces each of the 32 students to President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins. Gerry Moore speaking in Áras an Uachtaráin. President Michael D. Higgins addresses the group at a special meeting this morning.

The President described the project as valuable and empathetic.

“The choosing of a student from each county in Ireland to visit the Somme this summer was an original and empathetic decision as was the arrangement to remember and pay tribute to a soldier, from the county of the students, who had lost their life during the First World War.

Recent years have witnessed a critical reassessment by historians of the complexity of Irish engagement with World War I, and the Programme you are now engaged in is both critical and enormously worthwhile. Although many decades now separate us from that catastrophic time, not only historians but so many in Ireland will welcome your decision to recall those lost lives, to engage with the individual story of your own adopted soldier, and your doing this writes that citizen back into the history of your county and your country.

In the coming days you will all visit graves or memorials to your fallen soldier; significant moments of reclamation and restoration. It will be, I am sure, a most moving culmination to your months of research and commitment and I wish you well as you travel to the Somme.

The men of whom you have written were young people with the same interests and hopes and aspirations as you have. As we can see now from the letters and records which have become available, they were concerned with sport and adventure, and with dancing and romance. That their lives were taken from them so cruelly,and needlessly, stands as a call to all of us to make sure that yours and future generations should never have to suffer that same tragic fate.

I am sure you have learnt much through taking part in this Programme, including how the horror of war should press us all to cherish and nurture peace and to strive to achieve peaceful resolution of conflicts. That is a most important lesson to carry forward with you through life, as the engaged and pro-active citizens you are preparing to be.”
Students pose for a photograph with the President. The Project Group at Áras an Uachtaráin this morning

Organiser Gerry Moore of the History Teachers Association describes the project:

“This chapter of our collective history will now be explored in detail by a new generation and will be online for students of the future to learn from. This is a unique project that combines the past and the future and gives students the skills to research history while learning how to utilise new technology at the same time.”

The project not only allows students to learn more about this period of Irish but has a very 21st century lesson for the students, allowing them to create a website for their adopted soldier, teaching them basic web design, coding and multi-media digital archiving.

The architect of the website, Aidan Rafferty came up with the idea of a digital archive when discussing the project with History teacher, Gerry Moore.

“When Gerry told me about his ideas I was impressed at the ambitious scale of the project. I immediately realised the potential for a digital platform to allow the students to archive this material. This is a unique journey - recorded in a unique way by the students themselves. Everything you see on the website and our YouTube channel has been created by the young people involved. The students are archiving history using the very latest technology.”

After visiting the President, the students depart for the airport, and they arrive in Belgium this evening. We will be documenting their trip over the next 4 days, as they visit the graves of their "adopted" soldiers. They will also visit the European Parliament on Monday. For all the latest information on the trip please visit our blog and to see more photos from the visit to Áras an Uachtaráin - check out our Photo Wall

Students depart for the airport on their way to Belgium